Disrupting Genius: A Dialogical Approach to Design Pedagogy

Disruptive making methods to teach collaboration, discourage individual bias, and support understanding and connection amongst design students.

Bree McMahon 
Assistant Professor 
University of Arkansas

Rachael L. Paine 
Adjunct Professor
North Carolina State University

We are interested in examining the theme of ego and idea hoarding in student studios and design culture, methods for disrupting the existing monological status quo approach to design pedagogy, and opportunities for future culture shifts. During a short presentation, we will examine these themes and the outcomes of a classroom workshop case study which employed disruptive making methods to teach collaboration, discourage individual bias, and support understanding and connection amongst design students.

Dr. Philip Plowright criticizes the culture of design which aims to keep design unknowable (Plowright, personal communication, October 24, 2018). The conceptual foundations of design practice claim to be “indescribable and personal” (Plowright, 2017), with designers clinging to assertions that methods are idiosyncratic, steeped in personal genius. A genius instructor, fearful of sharing knowable, repeatable methods, must surely produce students who further promote this broken culture. When a designer’s goal is to be the smartest person in the room, the ego runs wild, idea hoarding takes over, creativity dwindles, and conversation suffocates.

During a collaborative design charette, students responded to questions about design authorship, origination, and agency. Using rapid prototyping, iterative processes, design dialogue, and making methods, students created multiple compositions reflecting their insights. Disruptive prompts were introduced throughout the workshop. A formal discussion followed the charette and participants engaged in a conversation.

Students explored complex topics in design culture and also learned methods for collaboration, which allowed for free knowledge exchange, design critique, and creative innovation. Challenging the traditional studio model provides a learning space for addressing new challenges or “wicked problems” while also learning skills for reaching agreements, coordinating actions, discussing specific goals, and exploring new modes of discovery (Dubberly & Pangaro, 2017).

Adopting a pedagogical approach that disrupts the idiosyncratic design culture keeps the ego in check, generates collaboration, fosters creativity, and encourages conversation. In the case of this workshop, participants began to see themselves as a smaller part of the collective whole, rather than an individual genius seeking personal gratification and recognition.

CITATIONS:

Dubberly, H., & Pangaro, P. (2017). Distinguishing between control and collaboration—and communication and conversation. She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation. 2. 116-118. 10.1016/j.sheji.2016.12.002.

Dubberly, H., & Pangaro, P. “What is conversation? How can we design for effective conversation?” Dubberly Design Office, 1 May 2009, Retrieved from www.dubberly.com/articles/what-is-conversation.html.

Pask, G. (1976). Conversation theory: Applications in education and epistemology. Elsevier Publishing Company, New York, NY, USA.

Plowright, P. (2017). Update – Project Goal. The cognitive structure of design methods (architecture). Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/project/The-cognitive-structure-of-design-methods-architecture

A Tool for Understanding: Giving Voice to Diverse, Non-traditional and Low-Income Students Through Teaching Letterpress Printing

Vida Sacic
Associate Professor
Northeastern Illinois University

Visual communication skills provide a backbone for participation in a shared cultural exchange. Yet, universities often fail to offer tangible ways to foster long term accessibility and inclusion.

Northeastern Illinois University is among the nation’s leaders at graduating students with the least debt while serving the most diverse group of students in the Midwest.*

In the span of last eight years, we have formed a program in Graphic Design tailored to students who come from racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse families and communities of lower socioeconomic status.**

Students often define success as the ability to use design skills to earn a living following graduation. Self-expression builds our students’ confidence and assertiveness as designers. For this reason, storytelling organically became a focus of the program. As it became evident that diverse students achieve most favorable learning outcomes in collaborative spaces where they can interact face-to-face, the heart of our program became our letterpress printing class.

Our growing letterpress type shop houses digital and analog tools. Students are required to collaborate with class members and beyond to complete projects, thereby practicing cultural sensitivity and interpersonal communication skills. The experimental nature of print and mechanics offers students an ability to slow down and consider their work more carefully, while introducing elements of chance and discovery to their process. This arrangement offers a unique environment to raise 21st century citizen designers and a valuable model for integration practices in design education. This model can be replicated in any makerspace environment that uses high tech to no tech tools.

Beneficial outcomes are evident as increasing amounts of our students are finding employment in the field, applying their skills to relevant positions and using their lived experience as a source of knowledge that can serve as an asset in their applied practice and beyond.

* data by U.S. News & World Report, September 2017

** 38% of Northeastern Illinois University students declare themselves as Hispanic/Latino, 31% Caucasian, 11% African American, 9% Asian, with the rest listed as other.
6% are identified as Non-Residents (including undocumented students).
55% of our students are non-traditional students, defined as postsecondary students who are 25 years old and older. They are contrasted with traditional students, aged 18 -22, who enroll immediately after high school, attend full-time, live on campus, and do not have major work or family responsibilities.
data by www.collegefactual.com

Design Crew Course: Human Context and Service Learning in Visual Communication

Mark DeYoung
Professor
Kalamazoo Valley CC

In Rick Poynor’s book on Jan Van toorn, the author lays out the designer’s philosophy for a more inclusive dialogic approach to design. Rather than authoritarian monologue, this re-envisioning of design respects the viewer, encourages collaboration and is dialogic, in pursuit of what German author Hans Magnus Enzensberger would call emancipatory media. This approach is gaining ground in design practice. Indeed, collaborative, iterative processes are increasingly employed in order to develop more complete solutions that are integrative in their approach, taking into account user, client, and community. Design scholars from Davis to Norman, McCoy to Heller, along with industry champions Martin and Brown continue to advocate for a people-focused approach to design through design thinking—coordinating cognitive collaboration with practical facility to solve problems.

Working in this direction, this paper reflects on the pedagogical and theoretical underpinnings of a media-independent, visual communications course, Design Crew. The Design Crew is a merit-based, advanced-level design course that provides students with the opportunity to work with real clients in the non-profit sector. The course engages students through an experiential learning method, integrating meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich and deepen the learning experience in design, encourage lifelong civic engagement and strengthen relationships that create community. Student designers use design thinking processes as they collaborate with their clients: researching and defining the problem; choosing appropriate media and prototyping solutions; developing final designs and evaluating the success of the solution. Successes and challenges of collborations and design projects are featured.

A Start Up Simulator: Collaborative Design Studio

Efecem Kutuk
Program Coordinator Industrial Design, University Lecturer
Robert Busch School of Design
Michael Graves College
Kean University

In recent years collaboration has become a fundamental of the design industry. In the start-up business environment, the corporate structure has been replaced by a passionate, skilled and capable 24/7 work force of risk-taking design entrepreneurs.

Everyday we witness independent design collaborations that capture recognition by launching their products through powerful tools such as social media and crowd funding, the innovate nature of which are several steps ahead of their market majority corporate competitors. What if we can simulate these collaborations at an earlier stage, during undergraduate education? What if we can mimic the experience of a start-up in the classroom?

I have been teaching “Collaborative Design Studio” the past three years, utilizing team-building and problem solving techniques to produce imaginary start-ups, which incorporate the full spectrum of the start-up model- user experience, branding and packaging by Graphic Designers, design development, prototyping by Industrial Designers, and exhibition of the product by Interior Designers. At certain points in the process, the team divides and conquers by their specialization within the design field. At other points, they work as a team to make common decisions. They follow a road that intermittently splits and merges throughout the journey. The course offered a window on how start-ups run, and gave students the ability to practice before graduating, rather than figuring out design entrepreneurism on the job.

My presentation will include examples of student work, from initial ideations to a finalized solution, by focusing on team members’ key decisions throughout the project. I will also substantiate my argument by highlighting the success of collaborative creative teams by other researchers findings. Finally, the importance of having a collaborative course in the design curricula, especially for institutions that have various design programs, will be open to discussion.

Intercultural Design Collaborations in Sustainability

Working remotely as cross-cultural teams, students explore ways design can address sustainable behaviors and lifestyle choices around diverse topics such as food, water, environmental degradation, social justice and cultural preservation.

Kelly Murdoch-Kitt and Denielle Emans work together in an ongoing series of semester-long collaborations with their respective students to make meaningful connections between the concept of sustainability and people’s day-to-day lives. Working remotely as cross-cultural teams, students explore ways design can address sustainable behaviors and lifestyle choices around diverse topics such as food, water, environmental degradation, social justice and cultural preservation. The semester typically culminates in a public exhibition on each campus, enabling students to share their concepts and communications with their local communities. Additionally, the most recent student exhibition, “Co-creating sustainable futures: American and Middle Eastern visual design students explore behavior change” was presented at the 2015 Association for the Advancement for Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Conference in Minneapolis, MN, USA.

gulftogreatlakes.org
restartexhibit.com

Kelly Murdoch-Kitt is Assistant Professor in the Graphic Design program at Rochester Institute of Technology’s College of Imaging Arts and Sciences. She teaches and works primarily in the areas of user experience and service design. Her recent collaborations exploring the socio-cultural benefits of cross-cultural design education and the benefits of integrating sustainability challenges into project-based design courses. Kelly and her collaborator, Denielle Emans, recently presented research at Spaces of Learning: AIGA Design Educators Conference and the 2015 Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Conference and Expo, “Transforming Sustainability Education.” Recent journal publications include “Design Nexus: integrating cross-cultural learning experiences into graphic design education” in Studies in Material Thinking 11: Re/materialising Design Education Futures (co-authored with Prof. Denielle Emans, 2014) and “Sustainability at the forefront: educating students through complex challenges in visual communication and design” in Interdisciplinary Environmental Review (co-authored with Kelly Norris Martin & Denielle Emans, 2015).

Denielle Emans is an Assistant Professor in the Graphic Design Department at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, specializing in the area of experiential design in relation to the conceptualization, development, and execution of visual messages for social change and sustainability. As a designer, she has worked to create print, web, and motion design solutions for clients ranging from software specialists to international institutions. Denielle has published her research in a number of academic journals and presented at numerous conferences across the world. She holds a Master of Graphic Design from North Carolina State University’s College of Design and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Denielle is currently a Ph.D. Candidate within the Centre for Communication and Social Change at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.